B. Boyd

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Reality Check: Baltimore Artist Hyeseung Marriage-Song Paints Portraits that Persuade

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"Across the Table": The artist's self-portrait with two chatty men, both modeled by her husband. The "made-up" cityscape is inspired by both Paris and Rome.

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MICA instructor Hyeseung Marriage-Song paints portraits in the realist tradition: While her full body of work tours like a striking and diverse all-ages yearbook offering of pretty, not-so-pretty, and downright quirky members of the human race, she clearly spies a unique beauty in each subject’s face. Each emits a glorious glow, whether symmetry’s on her side or no. The painter prof’s fastidious and fluent attention to detail delivers, not just reality, but an exciting interpretation of inner light.

Born in Korea in 1978, Hyeseung (pronounced Hey-soong), 33, relocated to Houston at age two, with her first generation immigrant parents. The eldest of three siblings — her brother and sister born in the U.S. — Hyeseung maintained impressive focus from an early age.

“My mother tells me I was pretty weirdly focused when I was three and four years old and would sit at my Fisher-Price desk for hours and draw people and characters,” Hyeseung says. “My mother was my first art teacher; though she was trained as a nurse, [she] was a fair draftswoman thanks to the well-rounded education she got in Korea, and she taught me how to go beyond stick figures. The first things I counted, apparently, were the five fingers on each hand of my squiggly princesses.”

Is Pink Slime Boosting Our Brains, Baltimore?

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Perhaps you’ve had your fill of news stories detailing the recent revolt against “lean finely textured beef” — now known to the world as pink slime (bad band name). With retailers — including major grocers like Safeway and Giant — public schools, and even sodium-swollen McDonald’s swearing off the stuff, sludge manufacturer Beef Products, Inc. plans to close three of its four enormous plants.

A picky (read neurotic) eater who shuns all but the very occasional organic ground beef bite, I wasn’t a blink surprised to read about pink slime’s secret history (lean beef “trimmings” and other parts washed in a disinfecting solution of water and ammonia and liquefied by centrifuge) nor its sneaky function (to bulk up ground beef on the cheap).

But I have been intrigued and engaged by the larger country-wide conversation this controversy’s spurring. Parents up in arms. Nutritionists making their pro/con cases. Smart, nuanced blog entries reminding us to consider the obvious evils of other popular/processed American meat products, like the common cold cut, for instance.

Happy Alone: Baltimore Joins Single-Rights Movement

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More people are living alone than ever before — and the long building global trend is suddenly gaining more media coverage by the month. Maybe you’ve read that one in three Americans lives solo? In 2000, it was already one in four. The percentage of single-dwellers in the U.S. has doubled since 1960. In Sweden, 47 percent of households are single-occupant. In the following American cities more than 40 percent of households house a total of one: Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver, St. Louis, and Seattle. In Manhattan almost 50 percent of singletons are kicking it singly.

I suppose I hadn’t really thought much about the trend’s implications until I came across the NYTimes review of Eric Klinenberg’s new book Going Solo, in which Klinenberg an ethnographer discusses why more folks are choosing “solitude” and why we, as a society, should and should not be worried about it.

The Lit Show Hits Baltimore Tonight, Y’all

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When my fiction writer friend Jen Michalski invited me to co-host a new brand of live literary event in town, a theatrical presentation/celebration of literature, music and art that pushed the envelope in any direction we chose, I knew my answer was yes before she’d finished speaking. Since I relocated to Baltimore 10 years ago to study fiction in the JHU Writing Seminars, I’ve attended a wide array of literary readings — most peopled roughly 80 percent by fellow writers — some events amazing, some just fine plus a single bright spot, others pulse-free. All have shared one thing in common, however: A fairly serious vibe.

At a time when literary book publishing faces, if not possible extinction, a radical morphing of shape and marketing plan, as with all forms of print media, perhaps fiction writers are the most sober creatures of all. I get that. Sometimes this energy saddens me. After all, my fiction writer friends are among the wittiest and most sardonic folks I’ve ever known. Otherwise, how could they write such revelatory material?

You Missed Your Ravens Cheerleader Tryout!

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On Saturday, 90 Ravens cheerleader finalists — male and female, culled from over 300 original competitors — auditioned for roughly 60 spots on the squad. Many were returning vets. Men tried out for “stunt” performance only, while women could strut their dance and/or stunt skills. Callback event happened loud and proud, before a paying 500-person crowd ($20 a ticket) at the Lyric Opera House. Fourteen “local celebrity judges” were on hand, including Ravens legend/TV personality Qadry Ismail. Spying the busy coverage in The Baltimore Sun got me pondering the value of performing as a cheerleader as an adult — I mean, I never saw the sense in the silly pastime when I was a kid. Growing up in Texas, cheerleading capital of the universe, I saw the sport as viciously competitive and snobby. Girls who secured a spot on the varsity or JV squad became the royalty of the huge school; they set the standard for looks and decided who fit into the larger popular crowd and who absolutely did not gain admission to keg parties in the woods.

After more patient research, I find myself hot-curler-ing a twist into my post’s narrative, a post that I first imagined would involve poking easy fun at these mostly blond and built, typically plainspoken + hyper-chipper gals. Sure, mainstream cheerleading will always sign up beauty and grace of the capital-C Conventional variety (though Cheer Coordinator Tina Galdieri promised she’s looking for beauty, brains, and skill, all three). But the Ravens cheer candidates I’ve recently videoed and read more closely about all come across as mature, realistic adults who are rather humbly passionate about both the Ravens’ team spirit and the joy of fitness. Many of the performers (blond/built/overly made-up included) are married people in their late 20s and early 30s, with kids to care for, and on top of that, full-time jobs to manage. (Full-time employment, full-time stay-at-home-parent status or full-time college enrollment is a requirement, as the Ravens pay cheerleaders only about $100 per game, though squad members can earn money through public appearances, according to About.com). A quick aside: In 2005, Molly Shattuck  famously became the oldest Ravens mom-with-pompom at 38.

MD Senate Clears the Air: No Smoking for Parents with Kids in the Car!

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After a spirited brouhaha of a debate, the Maryland Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would make it illegal for a driver or passenger to smoke in a vehicle containing a child under age eight, according to a story by Michael Dresser in The Baltimore Sun. Senators voted 27 to 19 to send the bill to the House of Delegates, but not before arguing over the proven ills of secondhand smoke versus the rights of adults to be free of government meddling while riding (and lighting up stinkies) in their vehicles. If such a law comes to, well, pass, police officers will have the right to pull over drivers who are puffing away whilst toting tots — smokers who should have known better sworn to pay a $50 fine. Opponents argued in session that the bill’s passage represents a slippery slope toward an absurd Big-Brother-ish level of government control.

“Cheeseburgers are next,” warned Senate Minority Leader E. J. Pipkin, an Upper Shore Republican, according to Dresser’s brief story. “The cheeseburger police will be here and they’re going to be saying that some child shouldn’t be going to McDonald’s after school.”

Baltimore Women and Body Image: Five Commandments for Self-Acceptance

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1920s female jogger

Recently I found myself wondering if the average American woman might not be evolving toward more self-acceptance where weight and body image are concerned — mightn’t voluptuous singer Adele’s wild popularity result in less rigidity in the media’s rulebook for how we’re all supposed to look? Adele is a world-famous sensation — and she’s a big girl. (True, she’s dropped some extra pounds since her throat surgery, but she remains full-figured, which seems to be what her body wants.) After Vogue editor Anna Wintour predictably ordered the singer’s spring cover airbrushed to slim her, fans were outraged and critics vocal globally.

“Confidence-Boosting Tips from Real Women 9 to 99,” a gorgeous photo essay in Shape, shot by Mary Ellen Mark, hoisted my optimism higher — walking readers through a diverse tour of physically active women, like yoga instructor Robin Wald, 42, who celebrates her fierce strength and consciously overlooks her perpetually flabby “Mommy” tummy, the piece reminds me that my body is, well, myself, my support system, my shelter, my stability and, in turn, my fragility. Bottom line: The body is a bodacious miracle whether you’re naturally a skinny mini or a zaftig diva.

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